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UNICEF Links Improvement in Child Welfare in Darfur to Political Solution to Sudanese Conflict

A UNICEF spokesman warned today that children remain among the most vulnerable victims of the violence in Sudan’s Darfur region. The group’s representative in Khartoum, Ted Chaiban, urged parties to the ongoing peace talks Abuja to do they can to find a political solution to the fighting.

His remarks follow the publication this week of a report on the status of children in the conflict. It said more than a million of Darfur's 3.4 million people are children affected by war – many spread across 200 refugee camps in the region. The report is part of a new effort by UNICEF to highlight children in conflict areas that have fallen off the front pages of the world’s newspapers – for example, children in Darfur, Haiti and the Democratic Republic of Congo.

Mr. Chaiban told English to Africa reporter William Eagle the security in Darfur has improved over last year, although there is still a lot of violence in camps – including threats of rape – to which children are exposed. As a result, UNICEF and cooperating groups have set up what he calls over 320 “child friendly spaces” around the area, where a child can be separated from adults and play in safety. He says UNICEF is also offering psycho-social services for children. According to Mr. Chaiban, “…any child who has seen violence and who is not in some way cared for will undoubtedly suffer psychologically for the rest of their lives...whether it be expressed as violence they may themselves exhibit, or anti-social behavior, withdrawal and depression. I think the important thing is that we take every step possible to try to reverse the trend and give these children a sense of normalcy and grounding.”

One of those steps is to give the children a sense of routine, such as continuing their educations. So far, he says over 325 thousand children are back in school.

Mr. Chaiban says the threat of violence and banditry remains. He says the only way to ensure UNICEF’s access to the area is to secure a political solution to the conflict. And he says while an effort must be made to ensure that international financial support remains steady over the next year.